Some of the most authentic and delicious wines are born from the least expected places and most unlikely collaborations. In the rugged mountains of Mexico’s Baja California Norte, Bichi has put together one of the most exciting projects in the world of wine. Spanish conquistadores first planted vines in Coahuila in the late 1500’s, pre-dating vine growing in both Chile and Argentina. The region was so well-suited and successful, that the Spanish Crown ordered production halted in fear of New World wine becoming more popular than their Iberian producers. Many Spanish Jesuit missionaries refused to stop, and continued to plant the Misión grape in Baja & Alta California, and by 1791 had re-established production on their own terms. Today, about 90% of Mexico’s wine is produced in Valle de Guadalupe, with many of the oldest vineyards centered around Tecate close to the U.S. border, a place that was of utmost importance for the production of wine during the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. (1920-1933). Bichi was founded in 2014 by the Téllez family, who moved to Baja from neighboring Sonora, hence the name Bichi, which means “naked” in the Sonoran Yaqui dialect. They bottled their first vintage that same year, and directly afterward Chilean natural wine trailblazer Louis-Antoine Luyt started collaborating with the Téllez family. Originally from Burgundy, Luyt worked in notable wineries in France before relocating to Chile in 1998, where he is now known for his work with the under-appreciated País grape, which so happens to be the same Misión grape that is found in Tecate. Louis-Antoine convinced Noel to seek out heirloom plantings of Misión, as he had done in Chile, and produce "vinos sin maquillaje" (wines without makeup) from them. Louis-Antoine worked with Bichi until 2017, and Noel is now sole owner, operating the winery with the assistance of Beaujolais-trained Yann Rohel. From finding these almost forgotten heritage vineyards, to day-to-day relationships with local farmers and fabrication of their concrete tinajas, Noel has brought Bichi Wines into the upper echelons of natural Mexican winegrowing. While Valle de Guadalupe has overall adopted a more technological and modern approach, Bichi adheres to traditional methods and minimal intervention. Bichi farms 10 hectares of their own Tecate vineyards biodynamically and collaborates with a growing family of organic farmers working vineyard land in Tecate and around San Antonio de las Minas (Valle de Guadalupe). Their work with Misión is notable, but you will also find Rosa del Peru (Moscatel Negro), Tempranillo, and in the case of the No Sapiens vineyard a mysterious grape variety that remains unidentified (possibly Carignan from the Spain, or possibly Dolcetto from plantings brought over from Italy in the 1940's). In the winery, grapes are destemmed by hand and gently trodden by foot, and fermentations are carried out by wild yeast in locally-made concrete amphorae. The wines are raised in a mix of neutral barrels and steel vats, with a minuscule 10 ppm of sulfur added at bottling to preserve the wine for travel, if needed. It’s hard not to talk about Bichi without mentioning the labels, which are uniquely Mexican and represent the Téllez family's whimsical sense of humor. Inside the bottles are incredibly vibrant and transparent wines that evoke the nearby Pacific Ocean, the granite soils, and rugged mountain vineyards of their region. Through the persistent work of the family and their farmers and collaborators, lively Baja wine is officially on the map.
Pet Mex comes from a single, dry-farmed, and own-rooted 69-year-old vineyard comprised of a mysterious grape variety that remains unidentified. The vines are planted close to the Pacific Ocean at 1,066 ft above sea level on sandy loam and granite soils in the area of San Antonio de las Minas in Ensenada, Baja. The grapes are hand-harvested, de-stemmed, and pressed after a few hours on the skins. Fermentation is with wild yeasts, and the wine is bottled before fermentation is finished, where the wine went through secondary fermentation, a la metodo ancestral. No filtration or added SO2. Rosa comes from a dry-farmed 20ha vineyard comprised of a mysterious grape variety that remains unidentified. The farmer says it could be Dolcetto, the Téllez family thinks maybe Cariñena due to it's sharp acidity, no one is quite sure and perhaps it doesn't really matter as this wine shows its place beautifully. The head-pruned, own-rooted vines are planted close to the Pacific Ocean in the area of San Antonio de las Minas in Ensenada, Baja Norte. The grapes were harvested by hand, de-stemmed and fermented and raised in steel tank, then bottled without fining or filtration and only 20 ppm of added SO2.
Listan is produced from 100-year-old pie franco Misión (Listan Prieto) vines grown at 2,400 ft elevation on sandy loam and granite soils in the mountains of Tecate, Mexico, right on the California border. Because the grapes are dry-farmed, yields are very low here. The grapes are de-stemmed and fermented without temperature control in 450 liter concrete tinajas. After fermentation, ½ of the cuvee goes to stainless steel vats, and the other goes to half to used barrels for 3 months. The wine is bottled without fining or filtration and just 10 ppm of added sulfur.
La Santa comes from centenarian, own-rooted Rosa del Peru (Moscatel Negro) vines grown at 2,400 ft elevation on sandy loam and granite soils in Tecate. The grapes were hand-harvested, de-stemmed, and fermented without temperature control in 450 liter concrete tinajas with 45 days of maceration. The wine was then raised for 3 months in ½ stainless steel vats and ½ older barrels.
No Sapiens comes from a single, dry-farmed, 69-year-old vineyard comprised ofa mysterious grape variety that remains unidentified. The farmer says it could be Dolcetto, Luyt thinks maybe Cariñena due to it's sharp acidity, no one is quite sure and perhaps it doesn't really matter as this wine shows it's place beautifully. The head-pruned, own-rooted vines are planted close to the Pacific Ocean at 1,066 ft above sea level on sandy loam and granite soils in the area of San Antonio de las Minas in Ensenada, Baja California. The grapes were harvested by hand towards the end of August, de-stemmed, and then fermented in concrete tinajas. The wine was raised for 3 months in equal parts steel vat and older oak and bottled without fining or filtration and only 10 ppm’s of added SO2.
Mistico is comprised of a field blend of grapes from the various parcels and terruños that Bichi works with in both Tecate and Valle de Guadalupe. The wine was vinified the same way as the other red wines, except for 1 tinaja of Tempranillo seeing some carbonic maceration.
Flama Roja comes from the Téllez family’s home vineyard in Tecate. A blend of young Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon vines which they planted themselves in 2004 and farmed biodynamically just like their vegetable and herb gardens. The grapes were harvested by hand, de-stemmed and co-fermented in locally made concrete tinajas with 30 days of maceration, raised in a mix of steel tank and used French barrels over winter, and bottled without fining or filtration and only 10ppm of added SO2.
Kid Pinot is a young-vine, biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir from a 2 hectare vineyard in the Tecate area in Baja California. The soil here is sandy loam over granite, and the elevation is 2,300 feet. The wine was aged for a short time in barrel, before being moved to stainless steel tanks. Minimal added SO2.
Bichi Blanco is 100% Chenin blanc that was completely overgrown and wild (never used for wine) until Noel Telléz came across the vineyard. The vines are planted on sandy loam and granite soils at 2,000 feet. Fermented on the skins for about a month in tinaja before aging in stainless steel. Minimal added SO2.
La Gorda Yori was initially made from Moscatel (thus the name, which means “fat and wide” due to the grape’s size), but as of 2019 it now comes from mostly a dry-farmed parcel of Chenin Blanc planted in the 1980’s on granitic soils in Tecate, which was abandoned a few years after planting and recently revived by Noel and his team, and bits of Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel, which were blended in to balance the ripeness of the Chenin. The grapes are hand-harvested, de-stemmed, and fermented with wild yeasts in concrete tinajas (amphoras), with 3 months of skin contact before pressing. The wine is raised over the winter and bottled without fining, filtration or added SO2 (starting in 2019).